Best books on investing?

Hi Maynard, your blog lists a few books on investing, but zulu principle etc are all from the 90’s. Are these still relevant? Which would say are the best books for modern investing?

Thanks

1 Like

Hi Colin,

Thanks for the question. (Those books were mentioned here).

I would still recommend these books even though they are 25+ years old. They are very readable (especially One Up On Wall St) and will provide a good investing framework for you to consider. Zulu and Wall St focus more on smaller companies, Buffett on larger companies

I should add that there are plenty of books on Buffett, and perhaps the best one is simply a re-jig of his annual letters.

Buffett himself has not written a book, so all the ‘how to invest like Buffett’ books are essentially assumptions made by author about the billionaire.

Old investing books can be quite informative, because with the advantage of hindsight you get to see whether the approach worked and what went right and what went wrong. Zulu for example lauded JJB Sports, which in its heyday was a great growth stock but eventually went bust. That’s not to say the Zulu method was poor, just that not every share selected would be the next Microsoft and you had to bear that in mind.

Even recent books can go stale. Keith Ashworth-Lord’s Invest in the Best talks about Dignity, the funeral business, in glowing terms and spotlights its ‘predictability’. But the other year that predictability went out of the window following a profit warning blamed on cut-price competitors offering direct cremations.

Assuming you are holding shares for a few years, what really counts is the competitive position of the business — and whether that position is likely to be breached at some point. Sadly no book can tell you how modern names such as Zoom and Tesla will fare. You have to make that judgement for yourself.

Some of the best books in my view simply recount how the author won/lost money on shares by giving real examples. For example, John Lee’s Make A Million Slowly collates a lot of his FT articles with other commentary and you get a good feel for his real-life private-investor-type approach to investing.

From a professional perspective, Terry Smith is somebody who has a proven and public record of great investing and clearly knows what he is talking about. So his book – a collation of previous articles, shareholder letters, and so on – is another worth seeking.

To be honest I do not read many investing books these days. Once you have a basic approach to stock-picking, more time ought to be spent reading RNSs than reading yet another study on Buffett or value investing or the like.

Two books that I recall have stood out to me are:

Investors Anthology

Lots of good investing wisdom in here. The chapter on The Loser’s Game was revolutionary for me. I suddenly understood investing was not all about picking winners, but avoiding losers as well. The basic message: just keep things simple and try not to be too clever, and your portfolio ought to do well.

Ah ha — I have found the PDF of that chapter:

the_losers_game.pdf (52.0 KB)

This was always my favourite quote:

Simplicity, concentration and economy of time and effort have been the distinguishing feature of the great players’ methods, while others lost their way to glory by wandering in a maze of details.

Free Capital

A super book that recounts how a dozen millionaire investors invest. Again, the attraction here is these are real-life UK investors with real-life strategies. So the book is not some theoretical exercise, where you have no idea whether the author knows what he is writing about.

Free Capital has of course gone a little stale, as all investing books do. One of the investors made his fortune in Soco International (now Pharos Energy) after buying in at pennies during 1999. The shares are now back to where they were.

Not sure if I have answered your question though. Overall, investing books tend to be backwards looking and can only tell you so much. You need to apply a basic investing approach and refine it over time with first-hand investing lessons — which can’t be learnt from a book!

Maynard

that’s great, thanks. will look at some of those. good point on zoom and tesla